By Janet Carabello

“The BLM itself admits that there are now probably more mustangs in captivity then there are left in the wild. But the roundups are still going on and BLM pledges to keep reducing the herd numbers, while continuing to hand out more livestock grazing permits.”

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Live link:  The Cloud Foundation

Adding further to Dan Haley’s editorial on Ken Salazar: The energy interests are not the only ones receiving handouts from the “candy shop” that our public lands have become under the Department of Interior (DOI), currently headed by Ken Salazar.

Mr. Salazar, himself a rancher, has perpetuated the handouts of millions of acres to the recipients of “welfare ranching”, i.e. government subsidized grazing rights.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which reports ultimately to Mr. Salazar, issues grazing rights at the current cost of $1.35 per month per “animal unit,” that is, one cow and calf (really two mouths eating grass). A rancher leasing private land to graze would probably pay upwards of $16.00 per month for the same livestock count.

Who are these taxpayer-subsidized ranchers? Not really small town poor folks qualifying for “welfare” rights like food stamps, etc. Most of the livestock on public lands is owned by major corporations and huge multi-million dollar cattle barons. That’s a real sweet handout to them.

The story gets worse from the taxpayers’ point of view and those with interest in historical values and humane treatment of animals. The BLM keeps issuing grazing rights and expanding public lands use to livestock ranchers at the expense of one of our national treasures: wild horses and burros.

Using the excuse that they are overgrazing and degrading our public lands, wild horse herds are being systemically removed by the BLM or “zeroed out” to use their own terminology. This is done with brutal helicopter “gathers” that force what were once free roaming spirited animals, many with genetic ties back hundreds of years to the Spanish imports, into holding pens to be “processed” for theoretical adoptions. Right now there are over 36,000 of these wild horses and burros being held in holding pens and fed daily at taxpayers’ expense.

Now here is the crazy part: Having taken away millions of western public land acres from the horses, Ken Salazar is proposing to purchase more land out east and then transport these captive horses to live out there!

He has approached Congress with a budget request that includes $45 million to make this purchase. (Total budget of $75 million for the BLM wild horse program plus $45 million to buy the land.) Although this is tragic and inhumane, it is also resulting in enormous and unnecessary waste of the American taxpayers’ money. Here are credible estimates:

*Current cost of the entire “welfare ranching” public lands grazing program: at least $500 million annually.

*Current cost of wild horse roundups and feeding 36,000 +captive animals: at least $100,000 daily or $36.5 million annually

*Proposed cost of purchasing new lands back east to house the animals: $45 million

These are only monetary costs. For those who care further, there is the “management to extinction” cost of what is happening to our American mustangs, i.e., the wild horses and burros.

The BLM itself admits that there are now probably more mustangs in captivity then there are left in the wild. But the roundups are still going on and BLM pledges to keep reducing the herd numbers, while continuing to hand out more livestock grazing permits. (George Knapp’s CBS documentary “Stampede to Extinction” is only one of the many public testaments telling the story visually.)

So what will be the next “candy shop” handout under Ken Salazar’s watch? Some suspect and fear that he will just handout our entire stock of American mustangs to slaughter interests, for some far away dinner table or fertilizer or dog food.

After all, even the BLM says the whole disaster is presently “unsustainable.” Whether it is oil or livestock interests, Mr. Salazar should not be conducting or condoning the “candy shop “handouts.

The candy; i.e., “our public lands,” and all its resources, belongs to the U.S. taxpayer!

Janet Carabello lives in Fort Collins. For more information, go to The Cloud Foundation, (thecloudfoundation.org) and the Animal Welfare Institute (www.awionline.org